Monthly Archives: April 2013

Who Cares for the Caregiver?

Caregivers play many different roles in their lives. Many times the caregiver role was not one they expected nor intended to have to play. Family caregivers especially may feel an obligation to care for their aging loved ones to the point of harming their own health through stress, loss of sleep, and not eating enough. As they work hard to fulfill their newly found caregiving roles, family caregivers don’t often stop to think about what happens after their children are grown and those they’ve cared for have passed on. In the end, who cares for the caregiver?

Rosalyn Carter said, “Caregiving is universal. There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who currently are caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.” According to USA Today, in one out of every 3 households in the U.S., at least one member is a caregiver. The need to give care and receive care are two points that we will all reach at some time in our lives. Caregivers cannot forget that as they dutifully give care to their elderly loved ones, one day they may need to receive that same care themselves, and they should not allow their caregiving role to prevent them from preparing for their own inevitable future.

Caregivers especially should make a long-term care plan for themselves and make sure that finances and legal issues are in order while they are still young and able to do so. In a perfect world, there would always be willing younger family members to take on the caregiver role and care for the caregiver who is no longer able to care for themselves. However, in many family situations this is not the case. Children, caught up in their own lives, are not always so willing to take on the tough role of a family caregiver.

Often in family situations, one child will step up and take on the caregiving role because the others would not. This not only makes this child the sole caregiver but it also leaves them without much family support. Family caregivers need to take the time to draw out a plan for their future – whether it’s planning to move into an assisted living or an independent living facility or whether it’s planning to find an agency or caregiver to provide care in the home.

As they make their plans, family caregivers should hold meetings with their children or other family members to discuss if any of them would be willing to provide care. This not only provides peace of mind for the caregiver to know that they will be in the safe hands of their loved ones, but it also provides a warning to the one wishing to take on the caregiving role. This ‘warning’ gives the new caregiver time to prepare and set things in order in their own lives so that they don’t feel the stress and heavy burden of becoming an unexpected family caregiver.

As they continue to dutifully provide care to their loved ones, family caregivers need to recognize that they may need someone watching out and caring for them even before they reach their older years. There is such as thing as ‘caregiver burnout.’ Though they sometimes may feel or act like they are, caregivers are not superhuman. We all have limitations. It’s important to recognize if you, as a caregiver, are beginning to experience signs of caregiver burnout and get help. lists common symptoms of caregiver burnout as follows:

  • Feelings of depression
  • A sense of ongoing and constant fatigue
  • Decreasing interest in work
  • Decrease in work production
  • Withdrawal from social contacts
  • Increase in use of stimulants and alcohol
  • Increasing fear of death
  • Change in eating patterns
  • Feelings of helplessness

Counteract caregiver burnout by seeking help and support from friends and family members even before you start experiencing symptoms. Caregivers need care too. Participate in support networks, do yoga, talk out problems and stresses with those close to you, but most importantly, make some time for yourself.

Though support from family and friends is greatly beneficial, in the end, the person who really cares for the caregiver is the caregiver themselves. Make a plan for your future, make time for you, and learn to find enjoyment in caregiving. After all, as caregiver Marlo Sollitto said, “Caregiving can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.”

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